How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Anna Your Own Question
Anna, Reptile Expert, Biologist
Category: Reptile
Satisfied Customers: 11511
Experience:  Have owned turtles, snakes, amphibians, and lizards. Study and provide habitat for wild herps.
Type Your Reptile Question Here...
Anna is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

My daughters bearded dragon (about 18 months old) has become

This answer was rated:

My daughters bearded dragon (about 18 months old) has become listless and lethargic, will not eat or drink, and is looking sort of "flat". She just told me one of his lights burned out a few weeks(?) ago and she has not been supplying him with calcium. I have a strong hunch that would be the problem. How do I get calcium to a beardie that won't eat or drink. There is no herp vet close and I have no means to take him if there was. What can I do?

I apologize that no one has responded to your question sooner. Different experts come online at various times. I just came online and saw your question. My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'm a biologist with a special interest in reptiles. I'm sorry to hear of this incident. Some additional information will be useful.

Is the calcium supplement you have on hand a powder?

When you soak Sid, how long do you leave him in the water? How many times per day?

Has he been passing normal droppings?

Exactly what temperatures do you now have under the basking light and on the cool side of the cage?

Which light burned out: the basking light or the UVB light?

What substrate do you use on the cage floor?

What brand and size is your UVB light? How old is the bulb?

I'm sorry for so many questions, but this is information I need to help you figure out what to do next. Thank you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The calcium is powder, Flukers brand, with vitamin d3, soaking time is about 10 minutes, i think he probably should soak longer, but the water gets chilled in that time and i didn't know if i should stress him by re-doing the water and placing him back in, i soak him 1 x per day, what droppings he has passed seem normal, but doesn't happen often as he is not eating or drinking, the temp under the basking light stays around 100-105 and the cool side around 80-85, the uvb light burned out and is a cfl type flourescent and is new (7 days old), he has cage carpet

Thank you for getting back to me. I’m working on your answer and will post it as soon as I have it typed up. (I'm not a fast typist.) Please don’t respond to this post as that can lock me out of the question. I’ll be back shortly.

Thank you for waiting. I'm glad to hear you use reptile carpet. You're on the right track with soaks, but let's make them better. Besides Pedialyte, add a big spoonful of the calcium powder and mix it in as well as you can. Make sure the water is deep enough to cover the vent (where droppings pass out) because lizards can absorb fluids and nutrients through their vents. The soaks should last at least 20 minutes. You can simply add a little warm water and gently swirl it in if the water gets too cold. The best temperature is around 100*F. Because Sid appears flat, he is probably dehydrated and needs more than one soak per day - at least 2, and preferably 3 would be better.

I suspect you got your information on temperature from a pet store or one of the many inaccurate websites online.. Most people do. While we should be able to rely on such information, unfortunately, it is often wrong. They sell people the wrong lighting, advise the wrong foods, and often don't know the correct temperatures for the various reptiles. Even though you have been trying so hard to keep him healthy, when you didn't have correct information to begin with, things are going wrong.

Sid is a bit cold. Because he is ill, you want the temperatures to be at the higher end of the acceptable range. A beardie who is cold will be lethargic, not want to eat a lot, and may even try to hide. The very coldest part of his cage should be 80*F to 85*F. The basking spot should be at least 105*F to 110*F, during the day. The latest research on bearded dragons has shown that they can't even begin to digest their food properly until their internal body temperature reaches 98*F. Being cold-blooded, the only way for that to happen is for them to lie in a very hot basking area.You can increase the temperature by using a higher wattage bulb in the basking light fixture, lowering t he fixture itself (but not so low that he can be burned on it), or by adding a second fixture. If you need a second fixture, you don't have to buy something expensive from a pet store.If you live in an area that has farm stores, you can buy a clip-on metal light fixture made to keep baby chicks warm for just a few dollars. Don't buy the accompanying bulb, however. You need an ordinary incandescent bulb in the basking light. Hardware and home improvement stores sell similar light fixtures as work lights.

After Sid has had a couple of long soaks and has been warmer for a few hours, you can try feeding him. Buy some plain meat baby food. Mix in some calcium powder. Drop a small dollop of it right on the end of his snout. Most of the time they will lick it off.

I also ahve a couple of other suggestions. If it's not too late to exchange the CFL light, I would do so. They have been found to be inconsistent in their output. At times they emit so much UVB it can damage the eyes, or they may emit so little it doesn't prevent Metabolic Bone Disease. We can't see UVB light, so we aren't aware of this. The lights also put out visible light, so we think they look fine. Your previous light was probably not emitting enough UVB to do any good long before it burned out. I'll tell you a little more about UVB lights. Full-spectrum, DayGlo, daylight, UV, and UVA are NOT the same thing. I'm putting a lot of emphasis on this because it's crucial to a reptile’s health. Without this light, Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) will develop because they won't be able to produce vitamin D. Vitamin supplements are not a good replacement for the proper lighting. MBD causes a very slow and painful death. UVB bulbs must be replaced every six months as they lose their effectiveness after that, even though they may still look fine. Light that comes through a window isn't sufficient because the glass filters out the UVB rays. Beardies need a light with an output of 10.0. I recommend the Reptisun 10.0 in the straight tube style.

I would also switch to a plain calcium powder. supplemental D3 has been linked to kidney failure and neurological problems in lizards. The Flukers company makes a plain one:

Because there is so much misinformation out there, I’m also sending along a care sheet, courtesy of Joan, another of our experts. You may have seen the care sheet before because it is used on several reputable websites. Joan has many years experience keeping and rescuing beardies. I suggest that you use the care sheet as a check list to provide the best possible care for Sid. If you have more questions, just let me know by clicking on REPLY. I hope Sid will reach a full recovery.


My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions. Please remember to rate my service only after you have all the information you need. Thank you!

Bearded Dragon Care Sheet

* Bearded dragons should be housed alone.

* Ages of bearded dragons follow these guidelines:

1. 0-3 months- baby
2. 3-12 months-juvenile
3. 12-18 months- sub adult
4. 18 months + -adult

* Bearded dragons live as much as 10-12 years if well cared for properly.
* Bearded dragons have a very good temperament as long as they are cared for and handled.
* When you bring your baby home, it may be quite stressful to him/her to get use to new home. May not eat well the first 2-3 days. They may not need to be handled the first 2-3 days if skittish and nervous.
* Never use sand or any other type of loose substrate: Loose substrates can cause impaction (not being able to go Poop) in all ages of bearded dragons- they lick their environment to explore .It is difficult to keep germ free and clean. Ceramic tile, newspaper, non adhesive shelf liner and reptile carpet is what is most recommended. Use paper towels for the little one and as they get bigger you can change to something else.
* Be sure you keep your beardies home as clean as you can. Clean up by spot cleaning when needed. Clean & sanitize entire tank every 10-14 days. A good cleaning solution is a 20% bleach solution. If you choose to use wood climbing branches etc, these should be soaked in the bleach solution and rinsed well. Then bake in 250 degree oven for 30 minutes.
* Need a climbing accessory: to bask and to warm up under basking heat light and lower branches or platforms to come down and cool off.
* A hide of some sort like a cave.
* A food dish and water dish.
* Plastic spray bottle
* Can use artificial plants when they get older- 3 months or so.
* Digital thermostat and/or temp gun
* Tank size: Minimal size tank for this age is 20 gallon long
* Minimal size for older beardie: 4 months of age: 40 gallon breeder is the minimal tank size for older dragon. Can divide a 40 gallon breeder for a smaller dragon. Must have two lights for your beardie.

1. A UVB light source-best is 10.0 Reptisun that runs the length of your tank. Your dragon must have this light to metabolize calcium. If not he will get metabolic bone disease, a serious condition. You can also take your beardie outside to bask in the sun for 15 minutes each day if your temps are 80 degrees or above outside. You can purchase cages or reptariums from your pet store. Never leave a beardie outside unattended.
2. A basking type light that puts out heat and warmth above basking spot. Your beardie must have warmth to digest food & thrive.

* Lights should be on for 12-14 hours each day. Follow the seasons and light timers are a great luxury if you can get them. 6 dollars at Lowe's. No lights or warmth needed at night unless your temperatures get below 62 degrees. If they do, there are ceramic heat emitters that put out no light, only heat. Use these at night if temperatures fall below 62 degrees.

* Temperatures have to be kept at the following ranges during the day:

Babies: Warm basking log: 110-125 degrees F (43.5* to 51.5*C)
Cool side: 85-90 (29.5* to 32*C)
Adults: Warm basking spot: 105-115F (40.5*C to 46*C)

Cool side: 80-85F (27*C to 29*C)

Measure temperatures with a digital probe type thermometer or a temp gun-these are most accurate. Stick on thermometers unreliable.

* Feeding a Beardie: Beardies eat live prey consisting of crickets, roaches and/or silkworms. Never feed any size of mice to your beardie. Never feed mealworms. They also must be given greens/veggies everyday. The younger they are the more live prey they should have. As they grow older the live prey decreases and the veggies/greens should be the major part of diet. Never feed anything bigger, than the space between your beardie's eyes. This includes both live prey and pieces of veggies/greens,
* A chopper or food processor is a huge help when your beardie is small. Always offer greens and veggies: collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, cabbage, red cabbage, fresh green beans, yellow summer squash, butternut squash, sweet potato, cactus pad. Apricots, strawberries, apples, blueberries, raspberries, cantaloupe- fruits are treats only.
* What is live prey? The easiest and less expensive live prey is crickets when you have a young or first beardie. The other live preys you can feed are silkworms, and special types of roaches. You can learn to raise your own live prey. Treats can be waxworms, super worms, and tomato/goliath worms. You may find that ordering live prey from the internet is the way to go..... Never leave live prey or greens/veggies in tank overnight. . Crickets can bite your beardie when sleeping.
* Babies should get 80% live prey, and 20 % greens/veggies. But since the greens/veggies are a must when they are older, get them eating their greens/veggies very early. Give greens/veggies in small pieces everyday. You should eventually start decreasing your older dragon's protein intake when they are about a year to 15 months old. Their protein intake decreases to 20 % live prey and 80% veggies/greens.
* A baby can eat 50-75 crix a day. Never feed crix or veggies bigger than the space between your beardie's eyes. Use this guide when buying crix or chopping your greens/veggies.
* You must provide calcium dust without D3 and multivitamin dust for your beardie. You should dust the live prey with calcium one time a day, and vitamins 3 times a week. Just collect your live prey into baggie and add enough calcium and vitamin to dust them. Then pour a few at a time into your tank. Some people feed their beardie in a separate tank so that no crickets can hide. Or some take out "furniture" from tank and feed this way. As they get older, 4-5 months or so dust live prey with calcium 3 times a week.
* Feed the veggies/ greens 1st thing in morning after lights on for one hour at least. Then after 2-3 hours offer crix. Then freshen green/veggies. Then give more crix. Make sure after last crix feeding there is at least 1-2 hours of lights so that they can digest their food before night time.

*Beardies over the age of one year old during the winter months will go into a Brumation like most Reptiles and Herps. It is a form of hibernation that is governed by the weather and time of year. The lights should be on a shorter period at this time. Fresh greens should be available during this period. Do not feed live prey during Brumation.

Water: Mist your little one with the spray bottle 3-4 times a day. You can also offer a small dish of water in your enclosure but be sure your dragon is not too small to drown in it. It is recommended that when your beardie is 2 months old you can bathe your baby in a small plastic container with warm water- not hot. It will help them to stay hydrated. As they get older you can move up to the bathroom sink and then to the bathtub. Very important for bath enclosure to be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed prior to bath time. Clean between dragons too if bathing more than one.

Anna and other Reptile Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I did the bath and put him under the basking light, my daughter went to check on him a littlt while later and he was laying on his back in the bottom of the cage and his beard(under his throat) has turned black. What does this mean?

I'm sorry to hear this. It means he is most likely too sick to respond to home treatment. He really needs to be seen by a vet. Are you sure there's no herp vet nearby? If you'll give me your zip code, I'll see if I can find one for you.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

42064-but i don't have the funds right now to have him treated

What does the black mean?

The black means he is extremely ill or stressed. Being on his back often occurs with advanced MBD.I have given you everything you can do on your own. Sid was very sick when you first noticed this. I didn't want to tell you, but he was near death. Being flattened is a very bad sign. I'm sorry to give you bad news, but there is nothing else you can do. The soak was the one thing most likely to help, but it didn't. In all honestly, I doubt there's anything a vet can do at this point. The nearest one is 65 miles away in Clarksville, so even if you had the funds, it's likely that Sid would die before you got there. This is one of those situations where the condition has progressed too far for treatment to help. I'm so sorry.